BY GEORGE ROSE
TORONTO - The top command of the Canadian military has been thrown into disarray by the unraveling of their attempt to cover up killings, torture, and racist abuse of Somali civilians by Canadian troops.
Two generals abruptly retired in late January after they were named by a military police officer as having hampered his investigation into high-level complicity in the shootings of unarmed Somalis. The Canadian Airborne Regiment was in Somalia from 1992 to 1993 as part of the United Nations "humanitarian" mission.
Major Vincent Buonamici was the lead investigator into shootings of Somali civilians by Canadian troops on March 4, 1993. He accused the generals of interference that was "extraordinary, reckless, and the most blatant impropriety that I have encountered."
Later in March 1993 Canadian soldiers tortured and killed Shidane Arone, a Somali teenager. As the facts about the brutal murder of Arone came to light, several soldiers were court-martialed, the Airborne Regiment was eventually disbanded, and a public inquiry was launched, which is now holding hearings.
In an affidavit asking for full standing before the inquiry, Buonamici said that senior officers improperly interfered with his attempt to investigate the role of the Airborne Regiment's commander, Lieut.-Col. Carol Mathieu. (Mathieu was found not guilty in 1994 of negligent performance of duty, but last November the Court Martial Appeal Court overturned his acquittal and ordered him to stand trial again.)
Buonamici further stated that senior officers snooped through his files, seized documents and computer files he had assembled for the inquiry, falsified a search warrant after the fact to justify their seizure, threatened him, and derailed his career because he persisted with his investigation.
High level cover-up
Buonamici's allegations point to a cover-up that extended to the highest levels not only of the Conservative Party government that was in office during the Somalia invasion but of the current Liberal Party government as well.
High level cover-up
Defence Minister David Collenette immediately rejected Buonamici's charges. Collenette claimed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) had already "conducted a full investigation into these matters" and cleared the military brass of wrongdoing. But to the government's embarrassment, RCMP officials denied they had carried out such a "full" investigation; rather, they had looked into only a small portion of Buonamici's allegations. The spectacle continued for several days of contradictory statements being issued by the RCMP, the military, and the defense minister.
Meanwhile, military officers appearing before the Somalia inquiry are trading recriminations about who should take the blame for "discipline problems" among Canadian troops. Commentators have noted that officers are making accusations against their superiors that would normally be punished as insubordination.
Last December, the inquiry heard Bud Jardine, former chief warrant officer of the Airborne Regiment, complain about the double standard of military justice. "I watched the commanders sit in this chair and blame the soldiers for their very own shortcomings," Jardine said. He noted that two enlisted men got prison terms for Arone's murder, while officers were acquitted or given reprimands at most.
Earlier, the inquiry also heard charges that soldiers at the Airborne Regiment's base in Petawawa, Ontario, held a dinner in 1991 to celebrate the 1989 massacre of 14 women by misogynist gunman Marc Lepine at a Montreal technical college.
Abuse by Bosnia `peacekeepers'
The reputation of Canadian "peacekeepers" took another hit when Esprit de Corps magazine published charges that Canadian troops in Bosnia beat patients in a mental hospital they had "liberated," had sex with nurses there, and engaged in wild, drunken parties.
Abuse by Bosnia `peacekeepers'
The defense department's director of security, Col. Peter Maclaren, replied, "Some of it did happen. Sex with the nurses - what else is new?" He also defended what he called "manhandling" of patients, saying that hospitals in Yugoslavia can't be compared to those in Canada.
The daily headlines with words such as "misconduct," "debacle," and "whitewash" could hardly come at a worse time for Canada's rulers. As one of the militarily weakest imperialist powers, they are trying to maintain a small piece of the action in the current NATO operation in Yugoslavia, with only about 1,000 troops out of the planned 60,000 in the U.S.-dominated force.
In fact, at the same time that two generals implicated in the Somalia cover-up took their early retirement, another Canadian general - currently the deputy commander of UN forces in Yugoslavia - also announced his resignation. Maj.- Gen. Barry Ashton hinted from Zagreb, Croatia, that declining morale in the military played a role in his departure.
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